On a recent climb of Mount Everest, climber and mountain guides Willie and Damien Benegas collected a sample of the world’s highest known plant life, at 22,300 feet. The sample will be analyzed by two scientific partners working with Adventure Scientists.
Tim McDermott, an MSU professor in Microbial Ecophysiology, will extract rock material to analyze the microbes living on its surface. Then Rusty Rodriguez, a microbiologist who works with the U.S.G.S., will extract DNA from the plants to determine the microorganisms associated with them.
Rusty’s ultimate hope is to isolate fungus that we think is living symbiotically with this plant. If he can show it’s the fungus that allows the plant to live in extreme conditions, he can likely move it into agriculture and have it help plants be more adapted to stress.
Read more about the project from Explore Big Sky, and see footage from the expedition below.